O's win again, but aren't smiling

August 08, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- The Orioles won for the fifth time in seven games yesterday, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers, 6-3, at County Stadium.

In the process, they gained ground in the divisional and wild-card races.

They rapped 13 hits, got another strong starting pitching performance, stole four bases, won three of four from the Brewers and allowed them only 14 hits in those wins.

All in all, they had a lot to be festive about.

Still, the atmosphere was something less than that in the Orioles' clubhouse, and there was no mistaking why.

Friday, Aug. 12. Doomsday. It permeates every clubhouse in baseball, and the Orioles' is no exception.

The games might not be meaningless. Then again, they might be. Maybe the players should be excited. Maybe there is no faking emotions.

Mike Mussina (16-5, 3.06), yesterday's winning pitcher who gave up two runs in the first inning and none in his next seven, said what everyone else must be thinking.

"There is a little feeling of what are we doing this all for? Why am I putting myself through all this if next week the season is over? Every year you look forward to the pennant stretch. Now there might not be one."

The Orioles have four games left before Friday's deadline. They are running third in the race for the one wild-card spot, 2 1/2 games behind Cleveland and one-half game behind Kansas City.

They begin a three-game series tonight in New York trailing the American League East-leading Yankees by eight games.

Yet, even the standings have a hollow ring to them.

"To be honest with you, I don't think anybody is thinking about anything but the strike," Mussina said. "Sportswriters and ESPN and CNN are trying to make up some kind of a race, saying who is how many games out of a wild card with how many games left before the strike. But what's the difference if we're not going to play? What's the difference if we're in the race if they don't have any playoffs?

"For that hour before the game, when all the reporters are gone, and we're just preparing for the game and not thinking about the strike, then the three hours we're playing the game, those four hours are about the only time we're not thinking about the strike."

During that time, the players get down to the business of playing.

"That's the best part of the day," Mussina said. "You have to concentrate on what's going on with the game, on what's at hand. Other than at that point, everybody is thinking about what's going to happen Aug. 12."

Under ideal circumstances, Mussina, an economics graduate from Stanford and one of the team's union representatives, would rather play baseball than trade labor-related insults with baseball's owners.

"Nobody wants to play more than we do," Mussina said. "Everybody is pointing fingers at each other. Our side is pointing fingers at them. Their side is pointing fingers at us. What it boils down to is we don't get to play baseball because of our decision, because that's the hand we've been forced to play with."

And it has been with a suddenly hot hand the Orioles have played the final games leading up to the probable strike.

In August, the Orioles are 5-2 and have given up 12 runs, the fewest in the major leagues for the month.

"If we go into New York and play well, nobody's going to be more disappointed than we are about not being able to go get them," Mussina said. "Kansas City has its 14-game winning streak right now [it ended Saturday] and our 10-game winning streak might have come in the latter half of August, and we're not going to be able to do it. It's disappointing we're being forced to do this."

Mussina didn't give himself a glowing performance evaluation in his last start before the deadline.

He gave up six hits, two earned runs and three walks.

The Brewers turned three hits, one walk and Turner Ward's sacrifice fly into two runs in the first inning against Mussina, but didn't score again until Ward hit his ninth home run off Lee Smith in the ninth.

The Orioles sent eight batters to the plate in the second inning and scored four runs off losing pitcher Bob Scanlan (2-6, 4.11), a fastball pitcher whose delivery is slow.

Brady Anderson, Jeffrey Hammonds and Rafael Palmeiro each stole a base in the inning.

"Every time I looked at my stopwatch it said go," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said.

Third base coach Jerry Narron's windmilling right arm said go to Leo Gomez, who was waved into the first out of the inning trying to score from first on Chris Hoiles' double to the left-field corner. As it turned out, the Orioles didn't need the run.

Anderson tied the score with a two-run double, Hammonds (3-for-5, batting .300) singled in the go-ahead run, and the Orioles scored the fourth run of the inning on shortstop Jose Valentin's fielding error.

And the Orioles were on their way to their fifth victory in seven games.

"With this team, a long winning streak is possible at any time," Mussina said.

"We're so dangerous offensively. If our pitching came together with our hitting, we could do what we did at the beginning of the season when we went 21-10."

, But are there 31 games left?

AL WILD-CARD RACE

With four days of games left before the strike date, here's how the race stands for the wild-card playoff spot in the American League:

Team .. .. .W .. ..L .. .Pct. .. ..GB .. ..Remaining schedule

Indians .. 64 .. .46.. .582 .. .. .- .. .. at Toronto: Mon., Tue., Wed.

Royals .. .63 .. .49... .563 .. .. .2 .. ..at California: Mon., Tue., Wed. Orioles ...61 .. .48... .560 .. .. .2 1/2 .. .at New York: Mon.,

.. ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .. Tue.,Wed.; Boston: Thu.

ORIOLES TONIGHT

Opponent: New York Yankees

Site: Yankee Stadium, New York

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Sid Fernandez (6-6, 5.09) vs. Yankees' Sterling Hitchcock (4-1, 4.04)

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